God made a promise to Abraham that He would bless him and multiply his seed. What exactly was that promise? Was there more than one promise or blessing? What was the blessing on Abraham really about? These are questions that need to be answered.
Most commentators write that God blessed the faithful man Abraham and He gave him many offspring. That is true. But also God gave the context that the promise of many descendants had with it the promise that He would give him the land of Canaan in every direction, northward, southward, eastward and westward, from where he was standing, as a perpetual promise forever.
And the LORD said to Abram [God later changed his name to Abraham], after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now your eyes, and look from the place where you are northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: 15 For all the land which you see, to you will I give it, and to your seed [plural] for ever. 16 And I will make your seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number [Hebrew: manah)]the dust of the earth, then shall your seed also be numbered. 17 Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it to you.
From this passage, there is no doubt that God would give Abraham many descendants. Also God promised him the land of Canaan in all directions that he could see from his advantage point. And if so, then the descendants of Abraham, the Jews today, have the divine right to the land of Israel. Is that correct?
From Genesis 17:1-10 we read that God again says the land is an ‘everlasting possession’ but He also says ‘I will be their God’ (17:8) and Abraham and his offspring shall keep His covenant (agreement) and be circumcised as a sign (17:9-10). But we know that God requires ‘circumcision of the heart’, and not of the flesh, to be truly His children (Romans 2:29). If they are not obedient to their agreement with God then how can they be His children? Because of their unbelief, they can’t be. And their land rights are forfeited!
And God said, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son indeed; and you shall call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant [agreement] with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed [descendants] after him.
The Lord’s agreement here was with Isaac and his sons. Isaac’s son Jacob cheated his older brother Esau out of his birthright. This means it became a land rights issue. Jacob, who later became Israel, claimed those land rights and passed them to his offspring. That is the claim on that strip of land now. But Jacob used deception and therefore the transaction was based on fraud. However, that is not the whole picture.
We read that Sarah was too old to bear children but God miraculously opened her womb and she bore a son, Isaac.
Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead [so old that he was close to death], so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.
That in blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;
Immediately you can see for this to be true it could not be only those who identify as Jews now because there are so few of them, 15 million Jews compared with 465 million Arabs. From Isaac God made a mighty nation for Himself and many other nations. These became a multitude of people, many peoples even Gentiles.
Abraham was not a Jew or an Israelite. He was a Semite as he was of the lineage of Shem. So he fathered all Semites after him, which included the Israelites, the offspring of his grandson Jacob (Israel) and Arabs from Ishmael his son of the bondwoman Hagar, as well as Arabs from Esau his grandson, who was cheated out of his land rights.
And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, 4 As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations [Hebrew: goy, (Gentile)].
All of Abraham’s descendants were Gentiles.
God blessed and multiplied Ishmael to make him a great nation.
And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation [Hebrew: goy (Gentile)].
The Hebrew word used there for ‘nation’ is ‘goy’ meaning a foreign nation or Gentile (plural ‘goyim’). Clearly Abraham fathers many Gentile non-Jewish nations. I use the word ‘Jew’ in the same sense that the Apostle Paul did in Galatians 3:28 and Colossians 3:11 where he used the word ‘Jew’ to include all tribes of Israel, and ‘Greek’ to include all Gentiles. Only after Jacob, who became Israel, do we see a separation between Israelites (‘Jews’) and Gentiles.
We commonly hear in the current Israeli-Palestinian Gaza War context the expression from Christian Zionists, “And I will bless them that bless Israel, and curse him that curses Israel,” apparently quoting Genesis 12:3. But that is not what the scripture states.
And I will bless them that bless you, and curse him that curses you: and in you shall all families of the earth be blessed.
The blessing here was on Abraham and not on the nation of Israel that came more than a hundred years later. Nor was it on the current nation of Israel today. This is evidenced by the meaning of the bold text above. The clause ‘in you shall all families of the earth be blessed’ refers to Jesus Christ. That is, the blessing on the world is that from Abraham’s lineage, Jesus Christ would be born. And He will bless all families of the earth with salvation. It is perverse to put this blessing on those who bless the nation of Israel when God intended it for the world, and that is salvation through His Son.
How do we know this? Look at this verse from the KJV.
And He brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell [Hebrew: saphar] the stars, if you be able to number [Hebrew: saphar] them: and He said to him, So shall your seed [singular] be.
Genesis 15:5 KJVER
Note the same Hebrew word ‘saphar’ was translated two different ways. Was God telling Abraham that what was prophesied in the stars, that is, the meanings of their names, would be the record of Christ to come? This is often related to the ‘gospel in the stars’, which is controversial. Yet there is no doubt that this is a prophecy of Jesus Christ being born on Earth.
Abraham certainly believed and he must have understood what the Lord was saying to him.
Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.
Abraham took it on faith. That is all Abraham could do. Under the inspiration of the Spirit the Apostle Paul teaches us what the blessing on Abraham truly was.
Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He said not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to your seed, which is Christ.
Abraham’s seed here is singular, that is, Jesus Christ. This is a very different prophecy to the multitudes of nations that would come from Abraham. See Genesis 13:16. A different Hebrew word ‘manah’ is used for ‘number’ in Genesis 13:16, which has the meaning ‘to weigh out’. The word ‘seed’ in the prophecy in Genesis 15:5 is singular, one seed, and that is, Christ.
In the ESV we read:
And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be,”
Genesis 15:5 ESV
Which is quoting from what should be the same Hebrew text as the KJV. But it seems that the translators of the ESV thought it was another prophecy on the many offspring Abraham would have.
The Hebrew word ‘saphar’, in its first use in the verse, is translated ‘tell’ in the KJV, but is translated as ‘number’ in the ESV. The Hebrew word ‘saphar’ can mean ‘number’ but it also can mean ‘declare, recount, relate or speak’. God’s words in Genesis 15:5 mean that the stars are declaring to Abraham an important message. The English word ‘tell’ has both meanings to ‘number, count or tally’ (bank tellers count money) as well as to ‘tell, speak or declare’. The KJV captures the correct nuance of the original words of God. It is all about Jesus Christ and there is only One.
The Jews reject Jesus Christ as their Messiah and thus they are not ‘circumcised of the heart’. The Lord wants love slaves, those who follow Him from the heart and not the letter of the law. The blessings of Abraham only pass to those qualified and this is how you qualify. And that includes any divine land rights.
And if you be Christ’s, then are you Abraham’s seed [offspring], and heirs according to the promise.
But even the followers of Christ have no enduring substance (Hebrews 10:34). We have no claim here until we have a new heaven and a new earth.